What Is Office 365 Reporting and Why Is It Important?

What Is Office 365 Reporting and Why Is It Important?

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One of the ways you can have a big impact on your organization is through reporting on Office 365 usage. Moving to the cloud can offer huge cost savings to your company, as well as improvements in employee productivity and mobility.

However, all of those benefits go out of the window if Office 365 is not used correctly. And this is where reporting on Office 365 usage is so valuable—you are able to discover how your licenses are actually being used, by who and what for.

For example, through your reporting activities, you might discover that many of the licenses you are paying for are not even being used. Finding out that certain accounts never get logged into can help you make immediate cost savings to the business.

But Office 365 reporting is about so much more than that. If you’ve got a good plan in place for monitoring your usage, not only can you help save money, you can also help your colleagues use the platform to its full potential, get them to try out other features of Office 365 they might not have heard of and really access all the benefits of the cloud.

So, let’s dive in and explore what reporting features are available in Office 365, how you can generate reports that will save cash (and make your CFO smile!) and see the kind of impact that reporting can have.

Office 365: So Much More Than Previous Platforms

Compared to earlier on-premises Microsoft productivity platforms, the reporting options available in Office 365 are a big step up. In the past, you could run reports with a PowerShell script, but let’s be honest, it was a pretty time-consuming process that required a fair amount of programming knowledge.

However, with Office 365, Microsoft has made reporting much more user friendly, and you can access a wide range of instantly-available reports from the Office 365 admin center. We love this feature!

Office 365 Reporting Home Page

Before we look at some of the reports available in Office 365, it’s first very important to think about what you actually want to achieve.

  1. Know and understand your reporting goals

    Here are some of the possible reasons that reporting on your Office 365 environment could be important:

    • Ensure money is being well spent: Are there any unused accounts that you're paying for?
    • User adoption: Are your users taking advantage of everything that's available to them?
    • Security: Are people behaving in risky ways? Is content being shared where it shouldn't be or with people that shouldn't have access?
  2. Bonus: Download the "5 Reasons to Monitor Your Office 365" eBook for more information on reporting and monitoring your cloud environment.
  3. Set up an action plan based on the results of your reporting

    There are a lot of different options available for reporting in Office 365. It’s important to have a clear idea of what kinds of reports you will be doing ahead of time, so that you can set up a follow up strategy based on the actionable insights that can be gained from them.

    What happens if an account is unused? Who should be informed if there's risky behavior happening in your environment? What kind of training can be set up if people aren't using Office 365 to its full potential?

    Reporting will be useless if nothing is done with the results!

  4. Set up regular times to run your chosen reports

    What’s more, you’ll also want to decide how regularly you'll complete these reports. Is it something you’ll do daily, weekly, quarterly? Set up a time and add reminders in your calendar so you know it always gets done.

    If you find this process too time-consuming, some third-party applications like Sharegate can help make you more productive by allowing you to schedule certain reports and actions.

Now that you have an idea of the basics of reporting in Office 365, let’s look at the reporting features that are available on the platform.

What Reports are Available?

There are a wide variety of reports available in Office 365. For almost every application that is included in your Office 365 license, you can view and download reports about activity. These include:

  • Active Users
  • Email apps usage
  • Office 365 groups
  • OneDrive for Business user activity
  • OneDrive for Business usage
  • SharePoint site usage
  • SharePoint activity
  • Skype for Business Online activity
  • Skype for Business Online conference organized activity
  • Skype for Business Online conference participant activity
  • Skype for Business Online peer-to-peer activity
  • Skype for Business clients used
  • Yammer activity
  • Yammer device usage

That’s a lot of different reports! Obviously, you’re not going to want to produce regular reports on all these services. Again, that's why it's important to know what your goals are and what you plan to do with the results before starting.

If, for instance, your organization has simply chosen not to use Yammer, you won’t need to spend time downloading Yammer usage reports. On the other hand, if you’re trying to increase organizational communication, you will want to investigate usage of all your tools for communication—including Email, Yammer, but also Skype for Business activity, too.

Let’s look at how you might use the reporting features in the email reports and Office activations to get a better idea of how reporting would work.

Example: Reporting on Email Activity in the Office 365 admin center

An email activity report can be utilized for a number of different reasons. It will give you insights into high-level email traffic trends—how many emails have been sent and received and so on. It also lets you drill down to specific users and monitor their activity.

You might want to report on Email activity to: understand who is using their accounts. Are some staff underusing their email account? Do they never seem to log on? Is this because they are simply not actually sending emails (and if so, why?) Or is it because they are using a personal email account for work?

To view your organization’s email activity reports:

  • You must be a global administrator in Office 365 (or an Exchange, SharePoint or Skype for Business admin)
  • Enter the admin center and click on reports
  • Under the Exchange menu, click on Email activity
  • From there you get an immediate report for the whole organization

Office 365 Reporting Email Activity

The report allows you to view email activity over different periods of time, and you can toggle between the number of emails sent, received and read. You can also filter down to specific users, or monitor for the organization as a whole. 

Office 365 email activity

Example: Reporting on Microsoft Office Activations

A Microsoft Office activations report can give you an insight into which products in your Office 365 environment are actually being used. It will tell you which users have logged into which Office 365 tools, how often and for how long.

You might want to report on Microsoft Office activity to: view which users have actually activated their accounts. This will tell you how well adopted your platform is, tell you about any rises or drops in usage over time and help you build a case for the return on investment (ROI) of using Office 365.

What’s more, the report can also potentially tell you which users are struggling the most with the platform.

To view your Office 365 report:

  • You must be a global administrator in Office 365 (or an Exchange, SharePoint or Skype for Business admin)
  • Enter the admin center and click on reports
  • Under the Microsoft Office menu, click on Activations
  • From there you get an immediate report for the whole organization

This report will tell you how many activations there have been across the whole organization, and you can also drill down to specific users. It can also be used to show what devices that Office has been activated from, so you can get a better idea of how your mobile device projects are going.

How Could you Use Office 365 Reporting in the Real World?

Office 365 reporting is especially useful if you want to track changes over time. If you're attempting to make a change in your business, Office 365 reports can help you measure how successful that change has been. Let’s look at Office 365 activations as an example:

  • Like many businesses, you may have first migrated to Office 365 simply because storing email in Exchange Online is cheaper than the server version of the product.
  • However, you soon realize that there’s much more to Office 365 than just email.
  • Your CEO and other stakeholders decide to push through an initiative to boost usage the mobile features of Office 365, with a goal of encouraging more employees to work remotely.
  • Your Office 365 usage reports will give you a clear set of metrics to understand how people have been accessing the platform and from what kind of device.
  • Because Office 365 reports give you the granularity to drill down to the individual user level, you can also work out which employees are struggling to adopt the technology.
  • From here, you could reach out to individual users and ask them what problems they’re having. Are they struggling to log onto Office 365 from their smartphones? Do they even know it’s a possibility?

As this example shows, Office 365 reports can be used to help your organization get more usage out of Office 365 and boost ROI.

Getting even more reporting detail for security and usage

With Office 365 reporting, Microsoft have really upped the possibilities compared to what was possible before. In the past, there was little more than just PowerShell for reporting. However, while the new reporting features are good, they still only provide a very high level overview.

Fortunately, however, Microsoft have opened up an API which lets third party developers create monitoring tools which give users even greater granularity about how Office 365 is being used.

At Sharegate, we’re really excited about the potential that these reports hold for helping organizations get even more out of their Office 365 investments. Our Office 365 Monitoring and reporting tool gives you insights far beyond what you can get with out of the box Office reports. For example, you can keep a close eye on external sharing and usage, so you can always stay in control of your cloud environment. Click here to learn more.

By reporting on Office 365 usage, you will get greater visibility into what’s happening in your environment, have a clearer view of any security issues and understand what problems users are encountering with your platform.

Visibility is everything, and ultimately Office 365 Reporting is in place to help you to get greater user adoption for your environments and therefore a higher return on investment. This will allow you to make a big impact on your business, both short term and in your long term Office 365 strategies.

Gabrielle Lafontaine
Gabrielle Lafontaine @sharegatetools

Gabrielle lives and breathes content. With a strong background in editorial strategy and content creation, she brings a human touch to the world of tech blogging. When she's not sitting at her computer, you'll more than likely find her eating something with avocado or curled up somewhere with a book.